Activist group Moms 4 Housing wins right to stay in Oakland house, protests Bay Area housing crisis

By Eric Fang, The Harker Upper School

A group of homeless mothers called Moms 4 Housing reached an agreement with Wedgewood Properties on Jan. 20 to buy the Oakland home they had illegally occupied from Nov. 18 to Jan. 14. Their fight to stay in the vacant house drew national attention to the housing crisis in the Bay Area.

After hundreds of people protested the mothers’ eviction on Jan. 14, the owner of the house, Wedgewood Properties, agreed to sell the house to the Oakland Community Land Trust, a nonprofit that will rent the house to the mothers at an affordable price.

Oakland deputies arrived to evict the mothers before dawn on Jan. 14, arresting two of the mothers and two of their supporters in front of a crowd of protestors.

Moms 4 Housing formed to protest the fact that tens of thousands of Bay Area homes are bought up by developers and left empty amid growing rates of homelessness.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are an estimated 46,000 vacant homes in the Bay Area, with 5,898 of these houses in Oakland.

“The intention was not to get this house,” organizer Carroll Fife said in a speech to supporters after the mothers’ eviction. “The intention was to spark a movement.”

Fife is the director of social justice nonprofit Alliance for Californians for Community Empo

werment (ACCE), which had been helping to provide the mothers with legal support to contest their eviction.

One of the mothers, Dominique Walker, moved into the vacant house with her two young children on Nov. 18 after struggling to find affordable housing in Oakland for eight months. Other moms soon joined her, prompting Wedgewood Properties to sue.

Though a judge ruled against the mothers and ordered for their eviction on Jan. 10, Moms 4 Housing refused to leave.

“We’ve been organizing and movement-building ever since [Nov. 18], and this movement is continuing to grow,” Walker said to Harker Aquila. “We weren’t planning on the judge ruling in our favor. We understand that the system isn’t set up to protect us, it’s set up to protect the wealthy.”

Many people who came out to protest the mothers’ eviction had experienced homelessness themselves. Oakland has seen a 47 percent increase in homelessness in the last two years according to a report by Everyone Home, a community organization working to end homelessness in Alameda County.

“I grew up here in Oakland all my life. I’m 40 years old. I’ve never seen this many homeless people out here in my life,” Andre Burton, a supporter of Moms 4 Housing said. Burton has been living with his great-aunt or on the street since being evicted from his Oakland apartment on Dec. 19.

Though Wedgewood Properties agreed to sell the house, Moms 4 Housing said their fight for affordable housing is not over. They will continue advocating for housing as a human right.

This story was originally published on Harker Aquila on February 8, 2020.